[January 25, 1963] Astonishing!  Amazing!  Fantastic!  Strange!  (March 1963 Marvel Comics Roundup)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]

by Gideon Marcus

The Journey tries to cover as many media as possible to be a complete one-stop shop for science fiction and fantasy fans.  Thus, we’ve long since branched out from sf magazines to cover books, movies, television shows, and comic books.

Interestingly, my journey with comic books mirrors my experience a decade ago with science fiction digests.  At first, I just had the one subscription to Galaxy, and I picked up odd issues of other mags as they caught my fancy.  Years passed, and by the time I started this column, I was regularly purchasing F&SF, IF, Astounding, and Satellite.  As of today, the Journey covers every American sf mag and a British one (New Worlds) to boot!

Similarly, a few years back, I purchased random issues of Marvel and National Comics, but in no sort of set schedule.  These last several months, I’ve found the constellation of Marvel’s output very compelling, and my collection has expanded considerably.

This month looks to be the crest of a wave, with Marvel’s superhero introductions reaching a fever pitch, pushing the fare of Girls’ Comics and Westerns to the background.  And what a crop of heroes these are!

First up is the Amazing Spiderman.  Since his first appearance just a few months ago, he’s become popular enough to earn his own mag!

Unfortunately, the fans are the only folks this new hero is popular with.  Everyone else thinks he’s a menace, a phoney, a hoodlum, or some combination of all three.  Leading the lynch mob is J. Jonah Jameson, editor of The Daily Bugle.  Even Spiderman’s death-defying rescue of Jameson’s son (an astronaut) does nothing to rehabilitate his image.

That’s a raw deal by anyone’s standard.  I wouldn’t be surprised if ol’ Spidey knocked over a few banks just for spite! 

Undaunted, Spiderman decides that, if a solo gig won’t work, perhaps he should join a team.

Of course, the Fantastic Four are sort of the glue that holds the Marvel-verse together, so it’s inevitable that Spiderman should run into them.  But it turns out that the F4 aren’t taking applications.

I have to say that I like Spiderman, and a downer superhero is certainly a switch, but I don’t know if I’m masochistic enough to put up with too much of this.  I hope Peter Parker finds his feet soon.

Speaking of crossovers, look who makes an appearance in Fantastic Four #12?  Noneother than the Hulk, now green instead of gray, and able to change into his titanic form and keep the brain of Dr. Bruce Banner (Hulk’s human form) at will with the help of a machine.

Nothing like a bit of shameless self-promotion…

In this particular issue, the Hulk is blamed for a series of attacks on military bases throughout the country.  But Banner is a sharp cookie, and through incredibly sophisticated sleuthing, finds the true culprit.

Fantastic Four continues to be my least favorite comic, in large part thanks to exchanges like this:

Charming as ever, Richards.

In this month’s Hulk, Dr. Banner’s form-changer machine is becoming more erratic.  Will it last much longer?  Also, the villain is the Master of Metal with… mastery over metal.  Interesting power.  I wonder if we’ll see his like again.

Marvel’s anthology mags continue to increasingly become vehicles for new superheroes.  Journey into Mystery is the home of Thor, Asgardian God of Thunder.

Tales to Astonish is Ant-Man’s vehicle.

Strange Tales might as well be titled Fantastic Four #12 and a half.

Tales of Suspense features the exciting debut of Iron Man, a superhero borne of crisis.  Tony Stark, a millionaire playboy engineer, is captured in North Vietnam after an explosion lodges shrapnel near his heart.  Tasked to make weapons by the nefarious Communist Wong-Chu, Stark instead builds himself a metal suit both to keep his heart going and to make an escape.

I don’t know if Iron Man will be a recurring character, but I’d certainly like to see more.

So that’s Marvel Comics for March 1963.  A pretty exciting and momentous twelfth of a year, and reason to keep subscribing.

As for National Comics, well… anyone else want to write an article?

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]

7 thoughts on “[January 25, 1963] Astonishing!  Amazing!  Fantastic!  Strange!  (March 1963 Marvel Comics Roundup)”

  1. I agree with you on Spider-Man; it’s refreshing to see a super-hero whose life isn’t always a bed of roses. He’s more relatable because he has problems like anyone else and things don’t always work out perfectly for him. He IS a bit of a sad sack, but I’m hoping that’ll change as he grows and graduates high school. After all, aren’t all teenagers sad sacks a lot of the time?

    The rest of Marvel’s output varies. The FF is usually pretty good, though I confess the Hulk/Thing clash was disappointing; I wanted to see a knock-down, drag-out fight between them, not a brief tussle in a cave. Ant Man bores me. Iron Man has potential, with the Cold War theme and Tony Stark being part of the military-industrial complex. Hulk seems to be floundering; they created him as a man trapped inside a monster, now they can’t figure out what to do with him. Same with Thor; he’s supposed to be a Norse god, but they keep giving him science-fiction storylines. Stan and Jack should stick with the mythology theme and really play it up.

    As for National Comics, I don’t see a lot to recommend, other than the War books. They seem to be stuck in the mindset that comics are for kids, so they keep turning out bad sci-fi and monster stories, even in books like Batman that should be more “down-to-Earth”. Even Justice League (which I like) has a sci-fi tale this month, where the Leaguers are shrunk and enter a sub-atomic world. I hope they take a hint from Marvel and start injecting some more realism into their stories.

    Whew! Sorry to ramble on so, but in case you couldn’t tell, I really like comic books!

  2. For shame, Traveler! Here I thought you were as devoted to good science fiction as Kruschev is devoted to Communism, but you go praising these ridiculous Marvel Comics that are completely unscientific in their basis. As I told you eighteen months ago, Julius Schwartz’s National Comics read like the best stories from the pulps, with slick moderne art by the likes of Infantino on “Adam Strange” and The Flash and Kane on Green Lantern.  Even the most ordinary comic from National, such as this month’s Green Lantern #19, plays delightfully with the scientific concepts around sound.

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